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Exhibit paying tribute to Lumad leader opens

by Maujerie Ann Miranda

An art exhibit commemorating Lumad leader Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay was launched at the College of Fine Arts, University of the Philippines – Diliman on April 25.

The exhibit titled “Pagpapatuloy: Isabuhay ang Legasiya ni Bai Bibyaon” features various artists’ works in different forms.

A young Lumad activist pays tribute to Bai Bibyaon at the exhibit opening. (MA Miranda/Kodao)

“Through art, the legacy of Bai Bibyaon is remembered, and the struggle for ancestral lands and self-determination is continued,” said Lala Empong, chairperson of Sabokahan, an organization of Lumad women campaigning.

Bai Bibyaon passed away in December 2023. She was believed to be more than 90 years old at the time of her death.

Bai Bibyaon was the first female Manobo leader.

She led the struggle for ancestral lands in Mindanao and self-determination, and against the destruction of the environment in the Pantaron Range.

Her tribe launched a successful Pangayaw (tribal war) in the 1980s against logging company Alcantara and Sons and went on to lead further resistance against corporate mining in their ancestral domain.

She also led evacuations throughout the years in protest of the militarization of their communities.

In 2017, she was named the Gawad Tandang Sora honoree given by the University of the Philippines College of Social Work and Development.   

READ: UP CSWCD names Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay 2017 Gawad Tandang Sora honoree

Some of the artworks on display at the Bai Bibyaon exhibit. (MA Miranda/Kodao)

The art exhibit is open until April 27 at the Multipurpose Hall of the said college. #

Massacre victims possibly raped, tortured

Twelve year old Angel Rivas and her 21-year old lesbian sister Lenie may have been raped and tortured by the soldiers who killed them last Tuesday, June 15, an indigenous people’s advocacy group said.

Way too many bullets were also fired on Angel’s face, making her unrecognizable despite stitches that now hold her shattered head together.

An aunt (name withheld for security reasons) also told Save Our Schools Network the Angel’s genitals were defiled.

Gibastos gyud ang iyang lawas, gi-rape, gihilabtan, guba kaayo ang atubangan,” the relative said. (They defiled her body, she was raped, her genitals torn apart.)

In February 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered government soldiers to fire guns at suspected rebels’ vaginas, adding, “If there is no vagina, it (the women) would be useless.”

“Tell the soldiers. ‘There’s a new order coming from the mayor. We won’t kill you. We will just shoot your vagina,’” Duterte said from the presidential palace.

Devastated family

The sisters,along with cousin Willy Rodriguez, were killed in the second massacre in Lianga, Surigao del Sur since September 1, 2015.

The 3rd Special Forces Battalion of the Philippine Army told the victims’ relatives they were pursuing New People’s Army guerrillas when a fire fight ensued that had the three killed as hapless bystanders.

The claim however contradicted statements made from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) general headquarters and by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) that the three were NPA fighters who first fired at them that resulted in a 10-minute fire fight.

Both also alleged Angel was a NPA child warrior.

But the victims’ relatives said the young Lumad-Manobo farmers and three other kin simply took a break from harvesting abaca hemp at their farm and went to Lianga town proper to buy rice.

They came across the soldiers who, without warning, opened fire at them. The three were killed while the other three were able to run away.

The victim’s families were only made aware of the incident at around 10 o’clock Tuesday evening after soldiers presented to them the lifeless body of Angel, wrapped in plastic and packaging tape.

Lenie and Willy’s bodies were later found in a separate location.

When the Rivas family were able to uncover Angel’s body at a funeral home Wednesday morning, they were shocked at the gruesome state of body and her once pretty face that was already full of crude stitches.

From pictures sent to journalists by the SOS Network, Angel’s face now looks like a grotesque mask that is mangled and askew beyond recognition. Her right eye lid is also missing, revealing an empty socket were her eye used to be.

Her aunt told SOS that Angel and Lenie’s father was devastated.


Lenie’s body was also full of stitches while Willy’s had fractures in his limbs wrapped with packaging tape, suggesting that he might have been tortured or had bones broken after being shot.

The soldiers also reportedly tried to stop the families from taking photographs of the bodies.

SOS said a certain Colonel Aranas offered to pay all funeral expenses but was rejected by the relatives.

Angel was an honor student of the Tribal Filipino School in Surigao Sur (TRIFPSS) who transferred to the Department of Education Alternative Learning System during the pandemic. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Latest Lianga massacre was 25th under Duterte, Karapatan reports

The deaths of three Lumad-Manobo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur last Tuesday, June 15, is the 25th massacre of civilians in the Rodrigo Duterte government’s counter-insurgency campaign, a human rights group reported.

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights said the Lianga Massacre on June 15 was the second since 2015 and “a testimony of the [Duterte] regime’s hideous legacy of killings” that continues up to its last year in power.

“We condemn in the strongest terms this latest massacre in Lianga and ask with much rage, ‘How many more will Duterte’s state forces kill and kill?’” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan’s Caraga regional chapter said in an urgent alert last Wednesday that troops belonging to the 3rd Special Forces Battalion (SFB) of the Philippine Army fired upon a group of six farmers, killing three while the three others ran for safety.  

Killed were farmers Willy Rodriguez, Lenie Rivas and Angel Rivas in Sitio Panukmoan, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

All members of the Lumad-Manobo tribe, they were residents of Sitio Manluy-a, Brgy. Diatagon.

Angel Rivas, 12 years old, was a Grade 6 student of the Lumad school Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) while her sister Lenie and cousin Willy Rodriguez were members of Lumad organization Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU).

The soldiers brought the lifeless bodies of the three to their brigade headquarters in St. Christine, Lianga and presented the victims as New People’s Army (NPA) members.

Spokespersons of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict were also quick to allege Angel was an NPA “child soldier” killed in a firefight with the government soldiers.

Relatives of the victims however belied the government’s claim and said the victims were simply on their way to Lianga town proper to buy rice after harvesting abaca hemp at their farm.

They even sought permission from a nearby military encampment to visit their abaca farm Tuesday morning, the relatives said.

The military troops of the 3rd SFB led by Captain Aranas and the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army have been encamping in the community of Manluy-a for several months and had established a military detachment in a civilian community called Kilometer 18.

The relatives also bewailed the state of the cadavers when fetched from the funeral parlor, saying Angel’s face is unrecognizable from its numerous bullet wounds.

The cadavers were also haphazardly wrapped in plastic and packaging tape, they added.

“The perpetrators are mad killers, with clearly no respect to life and rights. They look at the Lumad people like hunted prey, lying to their teeth and falsely tagging the victims as members of the New People’s Army (NPA),” Palabay fumed.

June 15’s incident is the second massacre in Barangay Diatagon since Lumad-Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo of MAPASU and Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), were killed by Magahat-Bagani paramilitary men on September 1, 2015.

The paramilitaries were then under the command of the 36th and 75th infantry battalions of the Philippine Army who were also nearby when the first massacre happened.

The earlier massacre set off evacuations from Lumad communities, with 3,000 individuals seeking refuge in Tandag City that lasted months.

No charges were filed against the perpetrators of the first Lianga Massacre, which coincidentally happened on the last year of the previous Benigno Aquino government.

‘Mass killing’

Karapatan said 121 civilians, mostly farmers and indigenous peoples, have been killed in 25 massacres in the five years of the Duterte government:

  1. Sumilao, Bukidnon;
  2. Palayan, Nueva Ecija;
  3. Masbate City, Masbate;
  4. Cawayan, Masbate;
  5. Mobo, Masbate;
  6. Mandaon, Masbate
  7. San Nicolas, Pangasinan;
  8. Silay, Negros Occidental
  9. Gubat, Sorsogon;
  10. Bulan towns, Sorsogon;
  11. Lake Sebu, South Cotabato;
  12. Polomolok, South Cotabato;
  13. Siaton, Negros Oriental;
  14. Bato, Camarines Sur;
  15. Ragay, Camarines Sur;
  16. Matalam, Cotabato;
  17. Antique;
  18. Patikul, Sulu;
  19. Baguio City;
  20. Polomok, South Cotabato;
  21. Kabacan, North Cotabato;
  22. Baras, Rizal;
  23. Capiz;
  24. Sta. Rosa, Laguna; and
  25. Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

“These killings should be met with all the strongest condemnation possible from different sectors. Justice for Angel Rivas, Willy Rodriguez, and Lenie Rivas!” Palabay said.

Meanwhile, indigenous peoples’ rights advocates held an indignation rally in front of the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City on Thursday evening, June 17, to condemn the latest massacre.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Aswang. Lianga

By Tyrone Velez

I. 2015

The forest emerald faded

and red the valley turned

as embers devoured the commune

The dawn cracked with bullets

on the heads of two datus

and a blade slashed Emok’s neck

Wails echoed across Andap

walls shake

this village school

Forest leaves snapped off

and embrace the blood-soaked soil

Blood red the sun

the busaw* howls

the tribe departs

a season of blood

II. 2021

A year of pandemia

but other things can kill

the Manobo girl dreams

of dances and harvests in their fields

but as abaca leaves were gathered

she and her family were collected

by bullets laced

with words of the busaw

smash their inner bodies

rape their lands for the coffers

the nightmare sets in again

as their blood cries for Magbabaya**

*in Lumad folklore is a being that eats or attacks people

**deity

LIANGA MASSACRE 2: Karapatan reports military killed 3 Lumad-Manobo

The military massacred three Lumad-Manobo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur on Tuesday, June 15, regional human rights group Karapatan-Caraga said.

In an alert, the group said Philippine Army 3rd Special Forces Battalion troopers indiscriminately fired at a group of farmers, killing Willy Rodriquez, Lenie Rivas and Angel Rivas in Sitio Panukmoan, Barangay Diatagon.

Angel was 12 years old and a Grade 6 student of the Lumad school Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur while Willy and Lenie were members of the Lumad organization Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU).

Karapatan Caraga said the victims and other farmers were harvesting abaca hemp at their farm when killed by government soldiers at about one o’clock in the afternoon.

Relatives told Karapatan Caraga that the group earlier asked permission from the military before going to the farm.

The soldiers reportedly brought the bodies of the three victims to their brigade headquarters at St. Christine, Lianga.

They troopers later claimed the victims were members of the New People’s Army.

Karapatan Caraga said the 3rd SFB, led by a certain Captain Aranas, as well as the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army have encamped in the community of Manluy-a for several months.

They also established a military detachment in a civilian community called Kilometer 18 in the said town.

Tuesday’s incident was the second massacre to have happened in Barangay Diatagon.

In September 1, 2015, Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo of MAPASU, and Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) were killed by Magahat-Bagani men.

The Magahat-Bagani were then under the command of 36th and 75th infantry battalions of the Philippine Army who were also nearby when the first massacre happened.

The killings set off evacuations from Lumad communities, with 3,000 individuals seeking refuge in Tandag City that lasted months.

No charges were filed against the perpetrators of the first Lianga Massacre. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Alamara lays siege on Lumad sanctuary

Armed paramilitary forces laid siege to a church compound housing indigenous peoples refugees in President Rodrigo Duterte’s home turf of Davao City Sunday morning, January 26, terrorizing Lumad children in their sanctuary.

Around 50 members of the paramilitary Alamara descended at the Haran compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) at nine o’clock in the morning, brandishing bolos and threatening the terrified refugees inside.

The bandits carried placards alleging that the UCCP brainwashed the Manobo refugees to resist ongoing mining activities in their ancestral lands in the Pantaron Mountain Range.

Manobo refugees prepare to evacuate the sanctuary area as Alamara bandits surround their compound. (Kilab Multimedia photo)

Some of the Alamara bandits wielded bolos and wire cutters and managed to enter the compound, forcing the refugees staying at the sanctuary area to seek refuge inside the UCCP office building.

Manobo leaders faced off with the Alamara and prevented them from overwhelming the compound.

UCCP Southeast Mindanao Jurisdictional Area Bishop Hamuel Tequis arrived at 10 a.m. to confront the Alamara as police officers also arrive to help ease the tension.

The police however refused to arrest the Alamara members who broke into UCCP compound. It also prevented members of the local media to enter the compound to cover the refugees’ press conference.

Davao city vice mayor Sebastian Duterte later arrived to broker a dialogue between the bishop, the refugees and the Alamara.

The Alamara attackers reportedly wanted to haul the refugees back to their communities in Kapalong and Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

UCCP Bishop Tequis and Davao City vice mayor Sebastian Duterte inside the besieged church compound and Lumad sanctuary.

Bishop Tequis said his church continues to stand firm on their commitment to serve the indigenous peoples in Davao region.

“By doing our duty to act as shepherds of the poor and the deprived we manifest our unwavering commitment to defend the rights of those who are deprived of their civil liberties,” Tequis said in a statement.

The bishop said the continuing harassment and possible filing of charges against UCCP Haran Mission Center is “a threat against the commitment of the church to do Christ’s mission of ministering to the oppressed and the marginalized.”

UCCP Haran had been serving as a sanctuary for Lumad forcibly displaced by violence and attacks by paramilitary and military groups in the region since the early 1990s. Earlier, it has been attacked by bandits, including an attempt to burn down the temporary Lumad school put up for its young refugees numbering around 200.

The Manobo refugees at the UCCP Haran office building. (Kilab Multimedia photo)

“[UCCP Haran had] served as a home for victims of oppression and injustice. It has become a place of healing among them who have been distressed by intermittent harassment and violence committed against them. But more than these, UCCP Haran is a sanctuary of peace in keeping with God’s own purpose,” Tequis said.

The bishop urged the government not to intervene in the church’s “constructive and beneficial affairs” for the oppressed and downtrodden even as he condemned what he calls the vilification and crucifixion of the UCCP for simply “shepherding the Lumad.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

1st Manobo in Congress vows to defend Lumad schools, national minorities’ rights over ancestral lands

The member of the 18th Congress who probably has the least formal education took to the floor of the House of Representatives last Monday, July 29, visibly nervous but delivered the most powerful speech of the night nonetheless.

Neophyte representative Eufemia Cullamat of Bayan Muna delivered her first privileged speech, vowed to defend the Lumad schools that are under attack by government forces, and called for the respect of the indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination over their ancestral domains.

Cullamat apologized for what she feared may be mispronounced words, but she soon hit her stride and passionately delivered her seven-page speech.

“I admit I am one of the very few members in this hall who may have only finished elementary education and finds it difficult to understand English words or read them. I am living proof of the government’s failure to provide education for everyone because the nearest school from where I live is 20 kilometers away,” Cullamat said in Filipino.

A member of the Manobo tribe from the mountains of Barangay Diatogon in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, Ka Femia railed against the attacks on Lumad schools she helped build. She recalled how she witnessed the murder of her cousin Dionel Campos, her uncle Datu Jovillo Sinzo, and Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development’s (Alcadev’s) executive director Emerito Samarca on September 1, 2015.

“I was shaking, prone on the ground, while the soldiers and the paramilitary peppered us non-stop with bullets. I clearly saw how Dionel was ordered to lie on the ground by a paramilitary. I clearly saw how his brain splattered when he was shot,” Cullamat said.

“I embraced Dionel’s children as they wailed over their father’s lifeless and violated body.  I saw one of our elders, Datu Bello, bludgeoned several times that caused fractures on his legs and arms,” Cullamat added.

She also narrated how she saw Alcadev’s principal Samarca lying in one of the classrooms, his lifeless body bearing signs of torture. “His body was riddled with bullets, full of cigarette burns and his throat slashed,” she narrated.

Cullamat said the massacre was one incident that shows how the government regards the Lumad’s struggle to establish indigenous peoples’ schools.

“What pains me, Mr. Speaker, is that these horrible attacks are still being perpetrated in our schools, against our teachers, against our children. Not only do they destroy our schools, they file trumped-up charges against our teachers and supporters; they also imprison them,” she said.

“They disrespect, they burn the schools we sacrifice so much to put up,” she added, her voice breaking in pent-up rage.

Cullamat raises fist in tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for the national minority groups. (Screengrab from HOR live feed)

Cullamat said that for many decades, the national minority had been deprived of basic social services, including education. She said they have been victimized by their lack of education, as well as the difficulty in obtaining them on the flatlands.

But the massacre goes beyond the government’s false accusations that the Lumad schools are disguised New People’s Army (NPA) training and recruitment grounds, Ka Femia said.

“That massacre was clearly meant to intimidate us into allowing coal mining in our ancestral lands. As a paramilitary trooper once said, ‘it would not have happened if we allowed mining,'” she said. But the Lumad of Diatogon have long decided to defend their land from environmental plunder, a decision that has cost them many lives and the existence of their beloved schools.

Cullamat said 15 coal mining, as well as palm oil plantation companies, are salivating over 200,000 hectares inside Lumad-Manobo communities in the Andap Valley Complex in Surigao del Sur.

Still, Cullamat said, they will fight for their schools. She said they persevered in establishing them and succeeded through blood, sweat, and tears and with the help of the church and non-government organizations. The schools taught them to read, write, and count.

“Because of these schools, our children are being educated in ways that are respectful of our traditions, culture, and our need to improve our lives, especially through agriculture so that we may prosper while we protect our ancestral domains for future generations,” she explained.

Cullamat also cited that many graduates of their Lumad schools have gone on to earn college degrees and have gone back to their communities as teachers, agriculturists, health workers and organizers. They have also become trusted advisers to their tribal leaders.

She added that her children studied in the Lumad schools and taught her and other adults in their communities to read and understand Filipino. “My dear colleagues, I now stand before you, speaking in Filipino, because of these Lumad schools,” she said.

The success of the schools in educating the Lumad have made them targets of harassments and attacks, the neophyte legislator said. She cited the recent decision of the Department of Education to suspend the permits of 55 Salugpongan Ta’tanu Igkanugon Learning Center schools in Davao upon the prodding of national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

“Esperon accuses the Salugpungan schools of training Lumad children to become New People’s Army guerrillas and how to shoot or dismantle guns, as he accuses other schools run by the Clans (Center for Lumad Advocacy Networking and Services), Misfi (Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc.), Trifpss (Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur), and Alcadev. All these are lies that are only meant to close down our schools and shut down our national minority organizations,” she cried, her voice rising in anger.

As an indigenous person member of Congress, Cullamat said she must report to Congress that the attacks against the national minority do not only happen in Mindanao. She said the Dumagats who oppose the mega-dam projects in Quezon and the Igorots who with the Chico River Irrigation Pump Project in the Cordilleras are also under attack.

“In spite of all these, the national minority would persevere in defense of our ancestral lands, the source of our life and livelihood,” she vowed.

“We will persevere in defending our schools for the education of our children. We will persevere in our quest for justice for the victims of human rights violations,” she added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP slams Army unit, LGU

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned a military unit that tried to prevent Davao City-based journalists from covering the evacuation of about 2,000 Lumad evacuees in Lianga, Surigao del Sur Monday, July 16.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the NUJP said it strongly condemns the 4th Civic Military Operation (4th CMO) Battalion of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that stopped the vehicle carrying five journalists from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Radyo ni Juan Network, Kilab Multimedia, The Breakaway Media and Davao Today at about 11 o’clock Monday at Kilometer 3, Sitio Neptune in Diatagon, Lianga.

A Major Jerson Igloria, battalion ground commander manning the checkpoint, told the reporters not to proceed to where the evacuees were gathered and was heard asking, “Sino yang nasa loob ng sasakyan? Mga illegal yan? ‘Di lumabas.” (Who are those inside the vehicles? Are they illegal? Why are they not alighting?)

Inquirer correspondent Barry Dacanay then alighted and tried to go near the approaching evacuees but was stopped by Igloria who told him, Sir, doon ka lang. Respetohay lang ta.” (Sir, just stay away. Let us respect each other.)

The Army officer then ordered the journalists to first secure a permit from the Lianga Municipal Social Welfare and Development (MSWD) Office before they would be allowed to cover the evacuation.

“Hintayin niyo yung MSWD kung papayagan kayo,” Maj. Igloria told them, claiming the place was an “ambush area” and therefore dangerous. (Just wait for the MSWD if it would allow you.)

A 4th CMO trooper interrogates a journalist at a checkpoint in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. (The Breakaway Media photo)

The journalists sought permission from the Lianga MSWD but were refused without explanation.

Asked later by local reporters about their refusal, Lianga MSWD officer Melita Encenzo denied forbidding the Davao journalists from proceeding to where the evacuees were.

“They just need to seek permission from the MSWDO or the barangays officials, just so we know who visits our area of responbility,” Encenzo reportedly said.

The journalists nevertheless managed to take photos and videos as well as conduct interviews when the evacuees reached the national highway.

The NUJP however said that both the military and the MSWD had no right in trying to prevent the Davao journalists from covering the Lumad evacuation.

“We stress that, in the absence of clear and present danger, neither the Army, MSWD, or any government agency has the authority to prevent any Filipino citizen from enjoying the freedom to travel and, in this case, stop journalists from covering what is clearly an event of utmost public interest and concern,” NUJP said.

The group said that even if it was dangerous, it is precisely the military’s mandate to protect civilians such as the journalists and the evacuees they were covering.

It also scored the MSWD for trying to prevent coverage of the evacuees’ plight and depriving them of assistance by withholding information that could help solicit more aid for the Lumad.

“Martial law [in Mindanao] does not justify the arbitrary restriction on coverage of the Lumad evacuation, unless, of course, we have ceased to be a democracy. What happened was a clearly unconstitutional violation of press freedom and, more importantly, of the people’s right to know,” the NUJP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Military encampment forces Manobos to evacuate anew

Evacuees were confronted by the 74th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

Military operations by the 75th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army drove more than a thousand Manobo Lumad to evacuate anew in Surigao del Sur Province Monday, July 16.

At least 1,607 Manobos from 11 communities of Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town and three communities from Barangay Buhisan, San Agustin town were forced to evacuate due to the encampment of the 75th IBPA in their communities since June 14, 2018, the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network said in an alert.

Alternative multimedia group The Breakaway Media also reported that the evacuees started their march from their communities at six o’clock in the morning and arrived at Barangay Diatogon’s Gymnasium at two o’clock in the afternoon.

A military checkpoint tried to prevent the evacuees from reaching the national highway as well as media workers from covering the evacuation, SOS said.

More than 1,600 Manobo evacuees fill the road to Barangay Diatagon Monday. (SOS Network photo)

In their fourth forced evacuation under the Rodrigo Duterte government, the Manobos complain of human rights abuses by the military, including sexual harassment of women and teenagers.

Lianga Manobos have also evacuated in July and November last year and January this year due to intensified military operations.

The Lumad also complain of forced recruitment of Manobo men to the military’s Civilian Auxiliary Geographical Unit as well as threats, harassments, and intimidation of Lumad school students in Sitio Simowao in Barangay Diatogon.

Among the evacuees are 568 learners of the Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur and Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, award-winning alternative schools for the indigenous Lumad.

The Save Our Schools Network also said the military threatened to file criminal charges against the Lumad leaders if they pushed through with their evacuation.

The Lumad said heavy military presence at the Andap Valley complex is to pave the way for the extraction of coal from their ancestral domain by mining giants Benguet Corp., Great Wall Mining and Abacus Coal.

Andap Valley is said to hold the biggest bulk of coal reserves in the country.

The Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has yet to issue a statement on the incident. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

More than 1,600 Manobo evacuees fill the road to Barangay Diatagon Monday. (The Breakaway Media photo)

Manobos receive threat after peace talks termination

MALAYBALAY CITY, Bukidnon—Instead of being given rice, hungry Tigwahanon Manobos have been threatened with massacre should they push through with their planned camp out in front of San Fernando, Bukidnon’s town hall.

“Huwag mong gawin sa akin iyan.  Alam mo namang wala nang peace talks.  Baka ma-massacre pa kayo,” San Fernando Mayor Levi Edma Sr. reportedly told the complaining Lumad. (Do not do that to me.  You know the peace talks have been terminated.  You might get massacred.)

Tigwahanon Manobo tribal chieftain Jimboy Mandagit said they met Edma last February 8 at the latter’s office to inquire about the food assistance sent them by the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) last September.

Mandagit said they have been hungry since they returned to Sitio Tibugawan, Barangay Cawayan, San Fernando from their evacuation camp in Malaybalay City last December 12.

Mandagit and his tribe evacuated to the capital grounds last July 29 after a traditional wedding ceremony in their community was attacked by the paramilitary New Indigenous People’s Army (NIPAr) led by the fugitive Alde “Butsoy” Salusad killing a pregnant woman.

Who are Datu Jimboy Mandagit and Butsoy Salusad?

“The rice given us when we returned to our community has run out and we are really hard up.  We need three more months before we could harvest what we planted since we returned,” Mandagit said.

Of the more than 200 sacks of rice and other food items sent to them by DSWD secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Edma only gave them 37 sacks of rice and distributed the rest to San Fernando’s 24 barangays, the chieftain said.

Mayor Edma reportedly refused to give them more rice unless the Manobos could present a signed authorization from President Rodrigo Duterte.

Mandagit said the mayor instead gave 52 families the sum of PhP14,000.00 for them to buy equipment to clear their once-abandoned farms.

“I told the mayor that what we need is the more than 200 sacks of rice and other food items sent for us by secretary Taguiwalo,” Mandagit said.

When Mandagit said they might set up camp in front of the mayor’s office to convince him to give them the rice, the mayor then reportedly issued the threat.

“When he mentioned the massacre, I felt he was threatening us with another attack by Butchoy’s NIPAr,” Mandagit said.

“I was angry at the mayor’s heartlessness.  We only wanted to show him how desperate we are so that if we die of hunger in front of the municipal hall, at least he would know,” Mandagit said.

Mayor Edma was unavailable for comment as he was visiting the town’s rural health unit, his office assistant told Kodao.

Meanwhile, Taguiwalo said he would first inquire with DSWD’s Region 10 office before issuing a statement. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)